Member Spotlight: Emily Walser, Ed Starr and Linda Sorrento

Get To Know Emily Walser, Ed Starr, and Linda Sorrento!



Emily Walser, NC                             Ed Starr, Gastonia, NC                       Linda Sorrento, Charlotte

In-Home Designer                             Design Consultant                              Consultant

Smith & Noble                                   Ed Starr, FASID                                     Sustainable Practice


“Getting to know your fellows”


  1. What should it mean to be an ASID Fellow and what does it mean to you?​

Emily: “To be an ASID Fellow means that over the course of your design career you have consistently and actively contributed to either the profession or the society in a meaningful way. It is peer recognition for excellence in design, advancement of the design profession and its abilities and/or leadership within ASID and the profession to advance the profession and recognition of all that design professionals bring to the table. Being recognized by my peers for chapter and national leadership over the years is both humbling and rewarding. I am truly honored to be counted among some of the greats in our profession.”


Ed: “To be a Fellow in ASID is an honor representing recognition for contributions to the design profession overall, and to ASID specifically. To me personally it is the culmination of many years of involvement in interior design and dedication to ASID through participation at the local and national level, hopefully benefiting our chapter and its members, as well as personal professional growth.”


Linda: “The traditional view of the ASID Fellow is changing. Looking beyond the award, it’s clear that recent complex topics; global impacts of materiality, sustainability, wellbeing, resilience and disaster mitigation have become both challenges and opportunities. Changing mindsets and crafting practical solutions are never easy, but design must play a significant role. No one or small group can do this on their own. The ASID Fellow seasoned with experience, confident as vocal proponents on issues, and with fresh insight, especially from our next generation can lead powerful action for our collective interest. The most important role of the ASID Fellow is to be an advocate for all members - to provide opportunities, open doors and to help navigate challenges. I personally find this exciting and inspirational.”


  1. What was the commitment and chapter involvement like?​

Emily: “Giving back has always been a part of my lift, so my engagement with our chapter and national organization was more of a learning and growth opportunity for me than anything overwhelming or time consuming. Don't get me wrong, there were certainly a few days that were challenging, however there were far more that were full; of fun, laughter and accomplishment. The lasting friendships I have formed are invaluable to me and would not have been possible without spending time as a committee member or chair, chapter director and later president or as part of the Chapter Support team and national board. It is SO worth the effort. I got much more than I ever imagined out of my involvement.”


Ed: “As a founding member of ASID I was involved in the profession and this organization back in the “dark ages” before the technological developments which have provided us with the ease of communication and ability to convey information which we have today. We had to be more individually committed and more deeply involved in every aspect of the workings of the chapter in those days, which required more of our time and effort than is required today to achieve the same goals. More direct one-on-one communication was the norm and I believe it was a more personal involvement, without the aspect of social media and means of technical communication which we use today.”


Linda: “ASID chapters became my common ground to delve into issues most important to communities of practice and people. ASID “Design Communities” was coined when I served on the Chapter Support Team (CST). Comprised of former Chapter Presidents, the CST have first hand knowledge to ensure the strength, stability and overall health of the 45 ASID chapters. We believed that the combined meaning of “Design and Community” ensured a positive future while bringing together members of chapters from large geographic areas. Every act of design is community design and community is the only thing that sustains community and all its people. What was most important is for people to become empowered and actually participate. My greatest professional joy during more than 40 years as an ASID charter member has been involvement with my chapter and the people who comprise our community.”

  1. Would you say it is still relevant today and what gives being an ASID Fellow worth the work?​

Emily: “Membership in ASID or any organization hopefully is still relevant today. I did not necessarily join ASID with the goal of becoming a Fellow. However, after a few years, getting more and more involved, meeting some of the fellows and learning a bit more about their career paths, I began to realize that perhaps, my involvement and contributions might one day lead to that honor and they did. While an individual can create an amazing body of work, build a firm/career etc, it is incumbent on each of us in the profession to pay it forward in some way. Through being a member of ASID, you have an established foundation of research, a network of peers to whom you can reach out, and a myriad of opportunities to grow and learn. Honestly, it is more about what you are willing to put in, rather than just what you expect to gain from membership. There has to be a balance, however you will have to put in some effort. Don't go it alone. Be a part of something larger. Embrace and learn from it.”


Ed: “I do think that being recognized as an ASID Fellow is as relevant today as ever. However, with so many responsibilities and involvements pulling our members in so many directions, it is probably more difficult than ever to commit the time and effort in the involvement which results in being recognized as a potential candidate to become a Fellow. Today it is more than ever a matter of priorities and determining what is of greatest importance and most beneficial to you and your profession and will benefit your fellow designers and ASID to the best advantage. I do believe that being recognized as an ASID Fellow is worth the work, but that should not be the reason that we make these efforts. Fellowship should be just an added recognition for the beneficial time and effort which a member puts into their commitment to our profession and our professional organization.”


Linda: “The notable contributions of the ASID Fellow are more relevant today as we’re at the genesis of new knowledge and new advancements in interior design. We can speak with candor about what interior designers innately know and what would most benefit us to learn. We can acknowledge the importance of talking openly about our mistakes or missteps and take the glorious leap into the future. A future where humans are the “human positive” element for our planet. Just as energy is becoming the “net positive” for the buildings we occupy. The fact is, our voice as interior designers in the dynamics of project teams provides the literacy representing people and the larger effect on life. With this focus, we can be confident that we’re integral to the human positive impact we make. 

Worth the work, it IS!

I look daily for ways to learn a lot, build bridges and pathways to sustain and elevate interior design because we’re at the heart of the interior environment. It’s where the people are and where our passion is at its core.”


  1. How do you encourage the next generation to aspire to the level of an ASID Fellow?​

Emily: “Whether you seek formal recognition by/from your peers or not, always strive to be the best design professional you can. Seek out new opportunities to learn - be it product knowledge, research, business development or leadership development. All of these, and much more, are some of the opportunities you will have during your career. Hopefully you will also find that ASID is the primary source of these opportunities, colleagues and friends. It all works together to weave the pattern of your life story and its accomplishments. Don't settle, Go For It!”


Ed: “Honestly, I don’t believe that aspiring to be a Fellow in ASID should be the reason we commit the time and energy involved in aspects of our profession and ASID. We should be willing to make this effort realizing that less than 1% of our membership will be honored by being named a Fellow. If it happens, and you are so recognized, that is a wonderful honor. But many of our members give tirelessly just to know that they have advanced and enhanced the profession which they love and respect, without thought of added titles or recognition – and this is true dedication to design and ASID.”


Linda: “I’m inspired by the vision of our next generation. Our understanding is not predetermined - it’s about new knowledge and integration. This generation is the first to develop their abilities to be integrators and the conveners of complex issues across disciplines. Soon the nexus of responsibility will be in their hands. When it happens, it’s magical. They will begin to realize what they are capable of. They are our beacons of hope. My mentor Holley Henderson, LEED Fellow advised in her book “Becoming a Green Building Professional” the first question to ask before settling in on your career is: “What is my purpose?”. This question set the tone for my mid-career correction. Holley’s steps to success are worth considering: “listen to wise advice, act on inspiration, go forward with courage, and ground yourself in the knowledge that each step on the path is purposeful.” Following her advice, I embraced the guiding principles of sustainability as a passion, understanding and strength. As a result, my mentor, Penny Bonda, FASID, LEED Fellow, a green building pioneer, introduced me to the U.S. Green Building Council. At the USGBC, I headed up LEED for Commercial Interiors and REGREEN, both collaborations with ASID. These are only two stories among countless purpose-driven relationships that opened up possibilities for me. The aspiration to ASID Fellow is an invaluable two-way relationship for those who give it their best.”

Additional Comments:

Ed: “When I was named a Fellow almost twenty years ago, it was a great and unexpected honor, which was one of the highlights of my professional life. I did not feel that I deserved it, and it was a humbling experience, while still exciting and wonderful… I would like for every dedicated designer, who is a member of ASID, to have this experience. I would encourage every member to do all they can to advance and improve the profession, and to help ASID become the true voice for all professional designers. Contributing in this way will give you a personal sense of accomplishment and recognition. I am deeply honored to be a Fellow and have great respect for the responsibilities which go with this recognition.”